Dental Emergency: Why Exposed Dental Pulp Is Unhappy Dental Pulp

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Each tooth contains living tissues. This is not the hard, dense part of the tooth—which is made of several different layers, including dental enamel and dentin. Each tooth has a central chamber that holds its dental pulp, and this is the tooth's living tissue. The pulp should be protected by the rest of the tooth, and exposed pulp can quickly become a critical issue. 

Breaches in the Tooth Structure

The dental pulp is exposed by breaches in the tooth structure that ordinarily surrounds and isolates it. This tooth structure may have been progressively deteriorating due to decay, until one day, a fractional breach exposes the pulp. The breach may have been spontaneous if the tooth experiences sufficient impact (due to an accident or biting down on something unsuitably hard). It could also be a combination of factors. You're likely to know that something is amiss since the pulp's sensitivity will suddenly escalate.

The Tooth's Nerve System

Your dental pulp also contains the tooth's nerve system. This is why its exposure can lead to immediate, unpleasant sensitivity—particularly when consuming food and drinks at either end of the temperature spectrum (extra hot or cold). Even biting down may aggravate the tooth's pulp. A wait-and-see approach is not helpful. Your tooth's pulp won't get used to the new stimuli, so it won't adapt. If anything, your discomfort will increase as the pulp succumbs to infection. 

Susceptible to Infection

An exposed pulp can be painful, but should the pulp continue to be exposed to oral bacteria, it becomes extremely susceptible to infection. Your level of discomfort will only increase, and chances are, it's already intolerable. Emergency dentists can help. Due to your level of pain and the risk to your tooth, this situation should be seen as an emergency. Don't hesitate to contact an all-hours dentist if the problem develops outside of your dentist's usual treatment hours.

Patching the Tooth

Treatment becomes more complex the longer you delay. An emergency dentist will typically patch the tooth. The breach in its enamel and dentin has led to the loss of the tooth's structure, and this structure will be replaced with a synthetic alternative—namely tooth-colored resin (which is what dentists use to fill cavities). Any decayed structure is drilled away before resin is applied. Now that your pulp is protected again, it will rapidly desensitize as it regains its health. Over-the-counter pain medication can alleviate any discomfort as your tooth recovers.

Your dental pulp essentially wants to be left alone, and exposed pulp is unhappy pulp. Contact emergency dentists for more info.